Unraveling You, Page 5Jessica Sorensen
“Are you awake yet?” Lyric asks, ruffling my hair with her fingers. “I’m getting bored watching you sleep.”
“Then stop watching me,” I murmur with my eyes shut. “It’s creepy.”
“Hate to burst your bubble, but you’re equally as creepy as I am.”
“Guess we’re perfect for each other, then.”
“Of course we are.” She flicks me in the forehead, startling me awake. My eyelids lift open, my gaze meeting her bright green eyes. They’re intense to look at, even now after I’ve known her for a while. I can never seem to stop staring at them. They’re beautiful. And it’s heartbreaking to feel what my staring at them means. That I like her. A lot. More than I’ve liked anyone in a long, long time.
“You’re doing that creepy staring thing again,” she informs me as she sits up in my bed and starts raveling a strand of her hair around her finger. She’s dressed in maroon shorts and a dark grey shirt, clearly ready to go somewhere, and knowing our routine, I’m going with her. “You know, it’s cool with me. I get it. I’m too dazzling not to stare at.” She smiles and my heart misses a beat. Her smile is so perfect and easy. Most days, I envy it. “But you might want to lay off on the staring a little bit in school, at least around Tina Marlelytone.”
“I’ve never stared at Tina Marlelytone.” I sit up in bed and stretch my arms over my head.
“I figured, but she thinks you do. So, you might want to”—she points at my eyes—“keep those sad little puppy dog eyes off her.”
My hands drop to my lap as I stare blankly at her. “I wish you’d stop saying that about my eyes.”
“I’ll stop saying that when it stops being the truth.” She jumps off the bed and jerks the blanket off me. “Now get up and get dressed. I have big plans for you today.”
“You might want to think before you jerk off the blankets like that,” I say to her as I drag my butt out of bed. “One day, I might start sleeping naked.”
“I think that’d be more embarrassing for you than it would for me,” she retorts, backing toward the door. “You blush when someone sees you with your shirt off.”
“That happened one time,” I call out, but she ignores me, flashing me a sly grin before closing the door.
Shaking my head, I trudge for the dresser to get some clothes. Nothing fazes that girl. It’s the most terrifying and fascinating thing to observe. And I’ve observed her, a lot. Everywhere she goes, she finds a crowd and blends in with them, like a freaking chameleon. Me, I’m like a skittish rodent who never feels at ease, always silent and uncomfortable, making everyone around me silent and uncomfortable. Except, of course, Lyric.
I’m extremely lucky to have met her that first day with the Gregorys. I’m not sure I would have survived without her. No one knows how hard that first day with the Gregorys was, and all the ones before that. I pondered suicide, touched many blades to my wrists, tasted the staleness of pills. Then Lyric sprung into my life with her sunshine attitude and smile, and suddenly my days don’t seem so dark. I decided the day she beat the crap out of the guy to defend me that I was going to dump the pills and try to give a go at life, the best that I could.
And I’ve been working on it ever since.
As I’m searching for a shirt, my fingers skate across one of the three objects hidden in the back of the drawer. The stuff I brought here with me. I still haven’t been able to get rid of them. I still think about my brother and sister every day, and wonder where they are.
“Are you still naked!” Lyric laughs as she bangs on the door, interrupting my thoughts.
“Just a second.” I slam the drawer shut then tug on a grey T-shirt and a pair of holey black jeans. Then I grab my boots from the closet and throw open the door. “You are the most impatient person ever.”
She rolls her eyes at me. “Whatever, shy boy. I’m super patient.” She seizes my hand and leads me down the hall toward the stairway. “So, it’s going to be a little bit tricky to get out of the house, since the usual tradition for the month marker is to spend the day talking and eating cake and ice cream, but I have an idea to get around it.”
Sunlight is flowing in through the massive windows of the kitchen, and I detect the scent of freshly baked cake in the air. The smell is starting to become more and more familiar with each day I spend here, just like everything else. While I embrace it, I also fear that it will all be taken away from me.
“Maybe we should just stay here, especially if Mrs. Gregory has baked.” It’s not just that though. I always feel guilty whenever I’m about to do something even remotely wrong. The Gregorys were kind enough to put a roof over my head, and I constantly feel in debt to them.
Lyric shoots me an inquiring look over her shoulder. “Why do you keep insisting on calling them Mr. and Mrs. Gregory? It’s weird.”
“I have my reasons,” I mutter as I sit down on a stool to put on my boots.
Lyric watches me lace my boots. I know she wants to ask what my reasons are, but she doesn’t. That’s the thing with Lyric. As crazy and blunt as she is, she’ll never press me too hard for information. I’m grateful that she doesn’t, because if she did discover certain details about me, she probably wouldn’t want to be my friend anymore. And I need her as a friend, more than anything.
She places her hands on her hips. “So, what you’re saying is you’d rather stay here and eat cake and listen to old timers tell mildly embarrassing stories, instead of going on an adventure with me?”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I just … feel like it’s rude to take off.”
“It’s not rude. Lila wants you to have fun. I know, because she checks with me all the damn time, always worried about your happiness and wellbeing.”
“Well, she should worry when I’m around you. Some of the crazy stuff we do … I’m surprised we haven’t gotten into trouble yet.”
“Give us time.” She nudges my foot with hers when I frown at her. “I’m kidding. Everything we do is safe.”
The word still feels so foreign to me.
Nothing like the word fear.
Fear is like air.
Because I know it.
I fear the things I don’t know.
And losing it.
Like the loss of my memory.
I lace my boot up then stand up, and she has to angle her chin to look up at me.
“Fine, I’ll go with you, as long as you promise that I’ll come back in one piece for Mrs. Gregory’s sake.” I don’t know why, but the woman seems to like me. Everyone in the house does, even though I rarely talk.
“All right, getting you back in one piece is doable,” Lyric muses then spins around and runs through the kitchen, swiping up a dab of frosting from the cake on her way around the island.
We find Mrs. Gregory in the living room, and after a little bit of persuasion—mostly from Lyric—she lets us go.
“Just be careful,” Mrs. Gregory says, moving in toward me with her arms out, as if she’s going to hug me. Like always, I tense and she promptly backs away. “And be safe, please.” She smiles, but it’s laced with concern.
I’m still getting used to the whole caring-about-my-wellbeing thing, so I hesitate as my mind catches up with the scene and the emotions connected to it.
I nod then clear my throat and lower my voice so Lyric won’t hear me. “Um, I’ve been meaning to ask you if you found out how my brother and sister are doing.”
Sympathy masks her expression. “I’m sorry, sweetie, but I couldn’t find anything out. They said the files were confidential.” She comfortingly places a hand on my shoulder. “Maybe when they’re eighteen we can start looking again. It’ll be more possible to find them then.”
Smashing my lips together, I nod then rush after Lyric and out the front door before Mrs. Gregory says anything further.
My chest is still pressurized
from last night’s dream, and now the whole thing with my brother and sister bears down on me. But after we’ve been in the fresh air for a few minutes, the pressure starts to alleviate. Always does. Houses do that to me. Rooms. Walls. Confinement.
“All right, here’s what I’m thinking,” Lyric announces as we hike up the driveway toward the open garage of her house. “Today, we are going to fly.”
I gape at her. “In case you haven’t noticed, people can’t fly.”
She grins back at me. “Oh, ye of little faith.” She squeezes into the garage between the two ridiculously awesome cars that belong to her parents, ones I long to touch, but have never worked up the courage to.
I notice she has an iPod tucked in her back pocket that I’m sure will serve some sort of purpose later on. When she emerges again, she has her bike.
“We’re going to take this bad boy down to Cherry Hill.”
“No way. That hill is freaking steep. Plus, aren’t we a little too old for bikes?”
“We are never too old for bikes.” She juts out her lip. “Pretty please. With a cherry on top.”
It’s really hard not to say yes to her when she looks like that. Still, I’m torn between coming back to Mrs. Gregory in one piece and making Lyric happy.
“All right, I’ll do it, as long as we wear helmets. And take my bike.”
“I’ll agree to the helmets, but we have to take my bike. Yours doesn’t have pegs.”
“Why do we need pegs?”
A mischievous grin lights up her face, and I know I’m in for something really iffy when we reach that hill. “You’ll see.”
Ten minutes later, I’m riding a purple bike, wearing a helmet, and Lyric is standing on the back pegs. She has her hands placed on my shoulders, and I’m both content and uneasy about the touch—always am.
“Okay, stop the bike right here,” she says, pointing over my shoulder at the center of the street on top of Cherry Hill.
I aim the bike in the direction and plant my feet onto the asphalt when we arrive at the spot. The inclined road, bordered with lofty, narrow homes, makes me dizzy.
“Are you sure about this?” I warily eye the bottom of the hill, which is an intersection.
Nodding, she pops an earbud into my ear while placing one in her own. “I have to do this, Ayden. It’s important to my musical inspiration.”
As the lyrics of “Fire Fire” by Flyleaf fill my head, I summon a deep breath, pick up my feet, and position them on the pedals. I don’t even have to put pressure on them. The bike takes off on its own and descends quickly down the hill, gaining momentum the further down we go. I start to grow nervous, and my nerves only escalate when Lyric’s hands leave my shoulders.
“What the heck are you doing?” I peek back at her while grasping onto the handlebars.
“Flying.” She has her arms spanned out to the side, her head angled toward the sky. Her long blonde hair blows out behind her as the wind dances through it. Moments later, she shuts her eyes.
Everything pauses. The freedom she carries is a beautiful, enthralling sight. So enthralling that it feels like I’m falling …
“Ayden, look out!” Lyric shouts, her eyes wide open as her hands clamp down on my shoulders.
I look at the road just in time to see a car heading at us. I swerve to the left, but it doesn’t help as we barrel toward a thick tree. The front wheel of the bike slams into the truck and I go soaring over the handlebars. Thankfully, I manage to keep my head from hitting the concrete, because even with the helmet on, it would have hurt like a motherfucker. The wind gets knocked out of me, though, and I struggle for oxygen as I lie on my back, staring up at the sky, feeling strangely free at the moment, even with the pain.
“Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.” Lyric appears above me, worry written all over her face as she throws her helmet off. “Be okay. Be okay. Be okay.” She frantically scans my face and then my body, checking for wounds.
Honestly, I feel fine. My knee and elbow ache a bit, but that’s it. I’ve experienced way more pain than this. I remain still, though, fascinated with how fussy she’s being. Normally she’s so carefree, but right now she’s wound up and panicking. Over me.
I’ve lived with over six families, and no one has ever cared about me as much as Lyric appears to right now.
Soft lyrics flow through my head.
Let me sing you to sleep.
Kiss your pain away.
Take your next breath for you.
And keep it as my own forever.
Maybe I’m an asshole for doing it, but I pretend to be hurt, lying still for longer than I should, seeking the fussing just a bit longer. When her eyes meet mine again, I start to feel bad for causing her so much worry. I open my mouth to tell her I’m okay, but the intense look on her face causes me to burst out laughing.
When her eyes narrow, I raise my hands, surrendering. “I’m sorry. I swear. I was just messing around. I’m fine. I promise.”
She pinches my arm and I wince, yet continue laughing.
“Seriously, Ayden. That’s not funny.”
“Oh, come on.” I prop up onto my elbows. “Don’t pretend like you wouldn’t have done the exact same thing.”
She crosses her arms, trying to remain pissed, but Lyric never stays upset for more than five seconds, and right on time, she relaxes. “Okay, I’ll let you off the hook, but only because I got you to smile.” She smiles herself as I reach up and touch my upturned lips.
She’s right. I am smiling. And laughing. It’s been such a long time that I hadn’t even noticed.
“Come on.” She stands up, brushes some of the grass off her legs, then offers me her hand. “Let’s move on to phase two.”
“Phase two?” I question with doubt.
“What, you don’t trust me?”
The mangled bike ten feet away should answer that question for me. Regardless of the bent metal and dents in the frame, I still wholly trust her. More than I’ve trusted anyone.
I nod, lacing my fingers through hers and get to my feet. “But no more hills.”
“Deal.” She grins.
The day feels so perfect. So real. I just wish I knew if my brother and sister have the same thing.
We spend the rest of the day doing things a little less dangerous, rolling the mangled bike along with us. We walk down to the local bridge, go get some ice cream, and hang out at the park for a while. By the time we arrive back home, the sun has lowered and the sky is black.
As we’re putting the bike away in the garage, Lyric checks her phone. “Oh, looks like we have the place to ourselves. Everyone went out to the movies.”
“What are we going to do? Because I know you’re already thinking of something.”
“You know me way too well.”
As she ponders an idea, I dare to touch the shiny black Chevelle in the garage. I remember how one of my foster fathers had one similar to it, only it needed a lot more work. He was one of the mildly tolerable parental figures. He never did let me touch the car, though.
“You know, I could always ask my mom if you can drive it,” she unexpectedly says.
I hastily withdraw my hand from the car, as if I’ve been caught with my hand in the cookie jar. “No, I’m okay.”
“Well, you can drive mine when I get it, then. It’s going to be a Dodge Challenger, though. And a fixer upper. At least, that’s the plan we’ve had since I turned fifteen and a half and got my driving permit.” When I look at her again, she’s got her evil plan face on. “So, do you want to see something really cool?”
“Maybe,” I reply cautiously. “It really depends on what it is.”
Grinning deviously, she guides me through the house, toward the back section, coming to a halt at a closed door beside the den.
“I’ve never been in this room before,” I remark as her fingers encase the doorknob.
“That’s because I’m technically not allowed in here unless my dad’
s with me.”
Before I can protest, she shoves open the door and flips on the light.
All of my objections abruptly dissipate.
“This is your dad’s office?” I step over the threshold behind her and glance around the room filled with old guitars, signed albums, drumsticks, photos, and plaques. So much cool stuff my mind goes into overload.